Starry-Eyed

By Tala Fehsel


He was the first one to notice when the star appeared.

“What?” I asked distantly when he told me to hold still and I tried to slap him off; at the wrists, at the elbows, as he cradled my face.

His palms were rough and his fingers smoothed back my hair across my temples. “Hold still!” He peered in to look at me with the critical eyes of a mother inspecting a stain on her son’s white cotton t-shirt. “Christ, stop squirming.”

I stopped, obediently, and waited as he studied me.There was a tiny glint of blue reflected in his eyes as he tilted my chin, shook my head from side to side, shaded my brow and took it away again.

“What is it?”

He stepped away, scratching his head. “It’s weird. There’s a…” He struggled for words to shape with the tip of his tongue or a gesture to draw in the air with his fingertips, his rough hands. “A light. In your eye.”

His tone was reluctant, like he didn’t want to say it. Didn’t want to see it.

But he couldn’t walk away when it shone in the dark like an LED and he couldn’t shut it off no matter how many of my buttons he pressed and pressed with his rough fingertips and it never flickered.

“Not a cataract,” the eye doctor said, baffled, and said he’d get me in touch with a specialist.

I shrugged. It didn’t bother me. It was only a tiny star. No more than a glint.

He kept trying to find me doctors, but I made him stop. It was starting to be useful. It had grown bright enough that I didn’t need to use my phone when I was digging for my bra underneath the bed or wandering into the kitchen for a late-night snack.

“This isn’t a joke!” he shouted when I told him that. His voice cracked. “It’s unnatural, can’t you see that? Who ever heard of a light in someone’s eye?”

“It’s a star,” I told him vaguely, elbows on the bathroom sink as I stared into the mirror.

It was definitely brighter. The pupil around it had grown to match, like a little piece of outer space for my star to nest in. It was so bright that it hurt my other eye to look at it.

“It’s embarrassing!” he shouted and told me I had to wear sunglasses when I went out to buy groceries.

I liked my star. I didn’t want to hide it.

The sunglasses worked for a couple days, but the darkness seemed to encourage it. It grew brighter in the filtered light until it shone through the tinted lenses, pale and white and phosphorescent. When I closed my eyelids, now, it shone through them too. You could see all the little veins and arteries all red around it, like when you put a chicken’s egg on a lightbulb.

I couldn’t say it helped my vision now. Not that it was too bright—shadows were creeping in around corners, like we’d gone back an hour on daylight savings time. Then two hours.

Night began appearing in little places, little patches of shade, just unswept crannies or the back of my closet or the cupboard under the piano. I began seeing stars there, too, just like dust or little pinpricks.

The doctors came and went and talked about my miracle—it was warm now, too. Not hot, like a real star.

It was my star. It was warm like I was warm. Ninety-nine-point-nine degrees.

We had to turn off the heating in the house. And then the lights. Wasting the energy was pointless now.

He told me it had to go, or he would, and grabbed my shoulders. I could feel his rough hands dimly through the fabric but I wasn’t listening anymore. My space was expanding. I’d turned my eyes on a deeper void than that—my eye was all star now, just pure light in a little pocket universe right in my socket.

When he left, they called me blind.

I could no longer perceive the walls and corners of their world, I couldn’t feel the air conditioning or hear their voices. I was far beyond.

I was dust and asteroids, I was rock and ice lost in infinite cold, I was swirling gas and meteors. I saw comets streak down the cheeks of the galaxy like salt water and I saw suns burst like raindrops on pavement, ripples absorbed by the fabric of space. I saw where stars are born and where they leap after their creation, dripping like tears from the eyes of the universe.

My poor star. It would never know its own kind.

For the first time I reached up past the warmth until it was hot as fever and touched where my eye should have been, gently, let it burn me like candle flame. It felt like it hesitated.

I cupped the high ridge of my cheek and waited ‘til it followed my fingertips, flowing and dribbling like mercury, until it sat in the chalice of my palms. It was cool. It was still.

I stroked it along where I imagined it would have temples and and wondered, for the first time, if my hands felt rough to a star.